Buchholz wrestlers and coaches celebrate their first team IBT title under coach Billy Pankey on Saturday at the Westside Kiwanis Invitational, hosted by Bishop Snyder (Photo submitted by Billy Pankey via Facebook).
By SHANNON HEATON
North Florida Matmen
JACKSONVILLE — Buchholz has known its share of wins.
Just check the T-shirts that the Bobcats wear, noting a string of “Cities” championships have secured as Gainesville city champions over the past several years. And they’ve won a duals tournament under coach Billy Pankey, taking the Showdown at O-Town title in Oviedo a couple of years back.
But winning an IBT-formatted tournament? That milestone had yet to be accomplished in Pankey’s tenure.
Saturday, it was accomplished, as the Bobcats won back-to-back-to-back-to-back weight class titles from 170 through 220 pounds, with 10 medalists in all, to claim first place in the Westside Kiwanis Invitational with 233 points.
“It’s special any time you win,” Pankey said at Bishop Snyder High School late Saturday afternoon after the conclusion of the tournament. “It’s a big deal no matter what. You train and bust your hump to win. It’s a good group. There’s no knuckleheads in this group. Every match is a lesson, every practice is a lesson.
“And I didn’t really think today that we wrestled up to our potential. We’ve got a lot to get better at, but it’s better to learn lessons when you’re winning rather than when you’re losing. We have big goals to accomplish this year.”
Buchholz outpointed Nease, 233-188, for the team title. The St Johns Panthers had three champs and eight medalists on the day. After losing to Bishop Kenny in a midweek dual, Fletcher came back to surpass the Crusaders on Saturday, taking third, 147-125.5, with seven medalists, while Bishop Kenny had six, with both securing one title. Westside held off Middleburg, 116-107, for fifth, with both teams grabbing four medals, though the Broncos had one champ.
First Coast edged 3A-District 1 rival Oakleaf, 98-97, for seventh place, with both teams taking one title. West Nassau was ninth with 69.5 points and one champ, followed by Bolles (59), host Bishop Snyder (57), Atlantic Coast (50.5), Episcopal (48, with one champ), Pedro Menendez (43), Ed White (29) and Keystone Heights (16).
Below follows a recap of each weight class, complete with interviews with all 14 champions found here:
Trevion Demus, Nease
106 — Nease’s Tre Demus opened with a tough 10-8 decision over Buchholz’s Aiden Moore in the quarters, then picked up two falls on Saturday, 2:52 over Atlantic Coast’s Cameron Courtenay in the semis, then a pin in 4:35 over Bolles’ Jacob Witt (2 decisions prior to final). Demus led 4-2 after one period, 6-4 after two, countering a Witt shot and putting Witt in harm’s way with that counter. “It feels better having family (older brother DeAndre, more on him in a bit),” Demus said. “Last year, I still had my team and my family, but he’s brought more into it, and he’s shown me a lot. It’s great to win, I’m excited, it’s a fresh new start to the season.” Moore won four matches on the backside to come back for third place, falling Bishop Kenny’s Ryan Mayer in 2:04 in the place match.
Kyle Hopkins, Episcopal
113 — After a 2017-18 season that didn’t end the way he’d wanted, Episcopal’s Kyle Hopkins pinned his way through the Kiwanis bracket, falling three fellow placers to win the title. In the finals, against Bishop Kenny’s Reilly Gentges (tech and forfeit prior to final), Hopkins jumped out to a 6-2 lead after one period, picking off the fall at 2:50, not quite partway through the second. “Feels good to be back, nice to be healthy,” Hopkins said. “The whole reason I went 113 (again) is that I have something I have to prove. I look forward to winning it. Last year…it was a mis-representation of my school, that’s not me, that’s not my school. It was a learning experience, glad to learn it now. I’m wrestling with a clear head.” Middleburg’s Riley Girgis, who’d lost by fall to Hopkins in the semis, had two pins in the consi rounds to take third, pinning Westside’s Jacare Johnson in 2:04.
Jason Schwartz, First Coast
120 — First Coast senior Jason Schwartz — who was third at Kiwanis at 113 last year — broke open a 2-2 tie with Nease’s Jalon Lumar (2 pins and decision prior to final) with a technical-violation point in his favor, followed by a big reversal in the final 30 seconds of the match, securing a 5-3 victory after winning by pin and by decision earlier in the tournament. “It’s awesome to get this win, but the work’s just starting. I’ll go into the practice room (on Monday) with the mindset that this never happened,” Schwartz said. “Just came down to preparations and mindset. I knew it would be tight. Go out with confidence, since my coaches have confidence in me.” In a matchup of 2017 runners-up, Pedro Menendez’s RJ Iglesias (2nd at 120 last year) majored Oakleaf’s Abdiert Escobar (2nd at 113 last year), 13-5, for third place.
Gavin Riccobono, Nease
126 — After recording three pins earlier in the tournament, Nease’s Gavin Riccobono scored all three of his points in the finals against Buchholz’s Bryan Perkins (3rd in 2016 at 106, 2 pins & decision prior to final) in the final 20 seconds, with an escape that tied the match at 1-1, securing a takedown with four seconds left in a 3-1 victory. “It was a huge decision. I had to weigh all the pros and cons, and I still miss my brothers and wish them the best of luck,” said Riccobono who transferred from Ponte Vedra to Nease for this year. “That was one of my most favorite wins of all time. I loved it; wins like this, that’s why I love this sport.” Westside’s Seth Britton, who lost by fall Friday night to Riccobono, came back to finish third behind four consi-round falls, the last of those over 2017 4th-place finisher (at 126) JP Villanueva of host Bishop Snyder.
DeAndre Hayden, Nease
132 — A Kiwanis champion in 2015, Nease’s DeAndre Hayden hadn’t been back since his freshman year, but made up for lost time, with two solid majors on Friday and Two first-period falls on Saturday, the second of those needing just 29 seconds to secure the pin against Bishop Kenny’s Daniel Maher (major/pin/decision prior to final). “It’s a great feeling to be back,” Hayden said. “It’s my last year, want to give it 100% and be the best I can this year. Hardest part was getting back into it (after injury), getting used to the motions, getting back in shape after a long break. It feels good, coming back and winning, but I still have stuff to work on.” Oakleaf’s Logan Gilbert, who’d lost by fall to Hayden in the semis, came back with two pins in the consis, falling West Nassau’s Anthony Neely in 2:45 in the third-place match.
Storm Mercado, Middleburg
138 — Middleburg’s Storm Mercado (2 pins & major prior to final) was a 2016 placer at Kiwanis (3rd at 132), and nearly had to settle for a runnerup spot after giving up an early five-point move in the finals to Nease’s Sean Arnold (3 first-period falls prior to final), but a late takedown in the second and early reversal in the third was enough momentum for Mercado to secure his first varsity IBT title with a 6-5 win. “Just stay aggressive, like my coaches keep saying,” Mercado said of his keys to coming back. “I won a small JV tournament my sophomore year, this is my first (varsity) IBT. Just keep progressing in practice, taking it one meet at a time. My teammates have been really great over the years. We always push ourselves in pratice, and in the classroom too.” Buchholz’s Hunter Griffin, who’d lost 15-1 to Mercado in the semis, came back to take third, with a fall and then a 4-2 decision over district rival Tyler Dalldorf for third place.
David Parkes, Oakleaf
145 — Oakleaf’s David Parkes (runnerup at 132 last year) had a 7-2 decision over Fletcher’s Douglas Tappin in the round of 16, plus two pins prior to his finals matchup against Middleburg’s Chris Burch (3 pins prior to final). Burch had the momentum through the first two periods, using his advantage on the feet to pick up two takedowns and build a 5-0 lead, but Parkes chose top to start the third period, threw in a powerful leg ride and power-halfed Burch over for a fall in 4:57. “I know he’s a very good wrestler, but power half’s my main thing,” Parkes said. “Just have to make sure I don’t get too high. He had pinned a few of these guys, so this win gives me some confidence; it’s going to be a tough district and region.” Three-time Kiwanis placewinner DeAngelo Fletcher of Buchholz, who’d lost by fall in the semis to Burch, had a pin and 2-0 decision in the third-place match over Fletcher’s Douglas Tappin.
Joey Cusick, Bishop Kenny
152 — The final between 2018 1A state placer Joey Cusick of Bishop Kenny (3 falls in 1:38 prior to final) and 2017 2A state qualifier and Coker signee Jacob Satterfield of Nease (3 pins in 2:59 prior to final) was one of the most pointed-to in the tournament, and the first period didn’t disappoint, as the wrestlers were tied at 4-all after a wild two minutes. But Satterfield was forced to retire with a leg issue — he’d battled injuries most of last year — giving Cusick the victory by injury default. “Really not to happy with the performance, overall; I’ve got a lot to work on, but I got the win,” Cusick said. Another Kiwanis three-time placer from Buchholz, Billy Green-Church (runnerup at 120 in 2016, 2nd at 145 last year), who’d lost by fall in the round of 16 to Satterfield Friday night, won four matches on the back side to take third, majoring Fletcher’s Tyson Petrie, 9-1, in the place match.
Requan Works, West Nassau
160 — In the first final of the tournament that matched up two placewinners, West Nassau’s Requan Works (tech/major/fall prior to final, 3rd at 152 last year) secured takedowns in the first and third periods over Buchholz’s Tracen Ransdell (runnerup at 160 last year, 2 pins & decision prior to final), riding Ransdell out for a 5-1 decision and the championship. “I was wrestling stronger, heavier kids, the whole offseason,” Works said. “Just trying to get stronger, keep my endurance up and maintain weight. We’re on to county next, and it was great to win last year after being at a school that hadn’t won it in 12 years.” Westside’s Angelo Philpot, a champion last year at 152 who fell, 4-2, to Ransdell in the semis, had two pins to place third, falling Middleburg’s Bryce Williams in 3:17 in the third-place match.
Matt Vann, Buchholz
170 — In the first weight class with four first-time placewinners since 113, Buchholz’s Matt Vann (2 pins & major prior to final) — a transfer from Vero Beach — jumped out to a 7-0 first-period lead over Fletcher’s Joel Rodriguez (2 pins & decision prior to final). While Vann ultimately did enough in that first period to bottle up Rodriguez and secure the win, the gap did close, as Rodriguez had two third-period takedowns before time expired in a 9-5 Vann victory. “It’s a different way of living, and definitely the area is different; I was 10 minutes from the beach before and now it’s a couple hours,” Vann said of the move northwest to Gainesville. “But my teammates have definitely helped me get better, and I’ve never been part of a team victory before. Amazing feeling.” Bishop Kenny’s Nolan Scheets, who’d lost 11-1 to Vann in the semis, came back to take third, with a 6-0 decision and fall in the third-place match (2:04) over Nease’s Kirill Kim.
Armando Acosta, Buchholz
182 — Buchholz’s Armando Acosta made the finals for the third time in three years (finalist at 182 in 2016, champion at 182 last year), with two pins prior to the final, where he faced First Coast’s Devante Wyatt (4th at 170 last year, 3 pins in 2:27 prior to the final). Acosta controlled the past throughout, scoring in each period to take a 10-3 win for his second Kiwanis title. “Really nice to get to the finals for the third year. I’m a little mad about how I performed because I was a little sloppy,” Acosta said. “It’s amazing. Wrestled since sixth grade and never had a team win a tournament like this. Glad to get a team trophy.” Bishop Kenny’s Michael Alvarez, who lost by fall in 1:10 in the semis to Acosta, came back to take third place, with a fall and then a win by DQ in the third-place match over Ed White’s Jaison Patterson.
Lawrence Smith-Jackson, Buchholz
195 — Like Acosta, Buchholz’s Lawrence Smith-Jackson was gunning for his second title (champion at 195 last year, 3 pins prior to the final), facing off against Fletcher’s Michael Strong (3 pins in 2:37 prior to final). In a battle of pin streaks, it would be Smith-Jackson’s that survived, as he picked up his fourth fall in 1:24, as he ran the table in 6:55 on Friday and Saturday. “Different (than last year),” Smith-Jackson said of winning for a second time. “I prepared a lot of the summer. I just have to keep wrestling, not stop, get into condition. It’s a good start. I feel pretty good about it…I have to do (more) work on top and bottom.” Bishop Snyder’s Thomas Graden, who lost by fall to Strong in the quarters, had three pins and a decision on the back to take third, the Cardinals’ highest finish on the weekend. He pinned Pedro Menendez’s Dane Litzinger in 39 seconds in the place match.
Nevan Burney, Buchholz
220 — A back-and-forth third period between Buchholz’s Nevan Burney (4th at 220 last year, 3 pins prior to final) and Fletcher’s Ethan Hollenbach (3 pins prior to final) led to Burney getting a late score, which was enough for him to hold on for a 5-4 decision and the Bobcats’ fourth consecutive weight class. “Feels very good, but I’m very tired,” Burney said after the dual. “Just wanted it (the takedown), and I just got it. It’s a lot of relief. It feels great (winning the team title as well as individual). Love my teammates.” Bolles’ David Adewale, who lost by fall to Hollenbach in the semis, came back with two pins in the wrestlebacks, the second of those in 4:14 in the third-place match over Oakleaf’s Gabe Hecht.
Stanley Hollenbach, Fletcher
285 — Fletcher’s Stanley Hollenbach powered through the bracket with three pins, the last of those in the final over Atlantic Coast’s Dave Petit (2 pins prior to final) in 2:54 for the title. “(Last year) told me I could be a state placer. Losing (a year ago) to the state champ, told me I could definitely place,” Hollenbach said. “Our guys this year, we didn’t have a couple of weights and we gave up 36 points at Bishop Kenny. Four people missed weight, so that’s something that we have to do (to accomplish our goals).” Westside’s Ray Bolden, who pushed Hollenbach into the third period in the semis, came back to finish third with a pin and default over Nease’s Jacob Rivera in the third-place match.
Complete brackets for this tournament can be found here.
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